Jaw Injuries and Disorders

Your jaw is a set of bones that holds your teeth.

Your jaw is a set of bones that holds your teeth. It consists of two main parts. The upper part is the maxilla. It doesn't move. The moveable lower part is called the mandible. You move it when you talk or chew. The two halves of the mandible meet at your chin. The joint where the mandible meets your skull is the temporomandibular joint.

Jaw problems include

  • Fractures
  • Dislocations
  • Temporomandibular joint dysfunction
  • Osteonecrosis, which happens when your bones lose their blood supply
  • Cancers

Treatment of jaw problems depends on the cause.

A broken or dislocated jaw usually heals well after treatment. But the jaw may become dislocated again in the future.

Complications may include:

  • Airway blockage
  • Bleeding
  • Breathing blood or food into the lungs
  • Difficulty eating (temporary)
  • Difficulty talking (temporary)
  • Infection of the jaw or face
  • Jaw joint (TMJ) pain and other problems
  • Numbness of part of the jaw or face
  • Problems aligning the teeth
  • Swelling

A broken or dislocated jaw usually heals well after treatment. But the jaw may become dislocated again in the future.

Complications may include:

  • Airway blockage
  • Bleeding
  • Breathing blood or food into the lungs
  • Difficulty eating (temporary)
  • Difficulty talking (temporary)
  • Infection of the jaw or face
  • Jaw joint (TMJ) pain and other problems
  • Numbness of part of the jaw or face
  • Problems aligning the teeth
  • Swelling

During work, sports, and recreation activities, using safety equipment, such as a helmet when playing football, or using mouth guards can prevent or minimize some injuries to the face or jaw.

The most common cause of a broken or dislocated jaw is injury to the face. This may be due to:

  • Assault
  • Industrial accident
  • Motor vehicle accident
  • Recreational or sports injury
  • Trips and falls
  • After a dental or medical procedure

Symptoms of a broken jaw include:

  • Pain in the face or jaw, located in front of the ear or on the affected side, that gets worse with movement
  • Bruising and swelling of the face, bleeding from the mouth
  • Jaw stiffness, difficulty opening the mouth widely, or problem closing the mouth
  • Jaw moving to one side when opening
  • Jaw tenderness or pain, worse with biting or chewing
  • Loose or damaged teeth
  • Lump or abnormal appearance of the cheek or jaw
  • Numbness of the face (particularly the lower lip)

Symptoms of a dislocated jaw include:

  • Pain in the face or jaw, located in front of the ear or on the affected side, that gets worse with movement
  • Bite that feels "off" or crooked
  • Problems talking
  • Inability to close the mouth
  • Drooling because of inability to close the mouth
  • Locked jaw or jaw that protrudes forward
  • Teeth that do not line up properly

A broken or dislocated jaw requires prompt medical attention. Emergency symptoms include difficulty breathing or heavy bleeding.